Four local nonprofits have collaborated to use the same chief financial officer in a pilot program – and the groups and the CFO say the idea is working very well.
"Everyone is really coming to the table and embracing the change,” says Kevin Gieder, the group’s CFO, who joined the effort after working as Finance Group Leader at the H.J. Heinz Company. “It's making my job very easy."
"It is a unique collaboration, and it's been really, really nice working on the types of solutions that nonprofits work to address,” says Andrew Butcher, CEO of GTECH Strategies
(Growth Through Energy + Community Health), who joined the leaders of Construction Junction, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, and Tree Pittsburgh to form the Environmental Finance Collaborative in December 2011.
Aided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Dewey & Kaye Consultants, the Collaborative groups began formulating their plans in September 2009, determining how organizations can share services to be most cost-effective.
“The indicators of success,” says Butcher, “will be improved financial performances for all the organizations, improved financial management, and cost reductions." All the organizations, he says, "can be much more strategic in developing business plans and more tactical in our day-to-day financial management."
The effort is unique in Pittsburgh, Butcher believes. While the way nonprofits operate involves more relationship-building than the for-profit world, Gieder says much of the financial management is the same – albeit on a smaller scale. And he sees early progress that is “pretty astonishing. It's really exceeded my expectations ... Sometimes change takes longer than you want it to. I thought I'd have to do a little more of a sales job." But, he says, the groups together greeted him wholeheartedly and executed their parts very well so far, creating ways to have more useful discussions with their boards, for instance, about financial directions.
"If we're effective in this -- if this really works,” says Butcher, “we might have a really interesting model for how nonprofits can work together to increase their impact."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Kevin Gieder, Andrew Butcher, Environmental Finance Collaborative